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Gurus Double-Decker MkII and SexyDrive MkII review

A pair of boutique dirtboxes from the Italian amp and pedal maker bearing heady Marshall and Dumble vibes respectively

Gurus Double-Decker MkII and SexyDrive MkII
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Double-Decker MkII is an excellent MIAB with a twist of originality while the Sexy Drive offers exceptional dynamic response and naturally transparent sounds from a simple format.

For

  • Two superb amp-in-a-box style overdrives.
  • Versatile.
  • Double-Decker has channel stacking and clipping options.
  • Sexydrive's Blend control is super-useful.

Against

  • Might be hard to source in some locations.
  • Double-Decker is a lot of pedal, but at a price.

Gurus is an Italian brand, founded in 2012 and headed by Chicco Bellini, that counts the likes of Steve Lukather, Joe Walsh and Adrian Belew among its users. 

The main thrust of the company has been to make new pedals inspired by classic gear such as its Echosex pedals, which replicate the vintage Italian Binson Echorec echoes. 

This ethos is seen here with the Double-Decker MkII, based on vintage Marshall amp sounds with the ‘Jose Mod’. Supplied with their own 12-volt power adaptors, the pedals are robustly built and have a distinctive black glass surface that is backlit when powered up.

Double-Decker MkII 

Gurus Double-Decker MkII

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Based on a larger, older design, the MkII is a valve-driven overdrive pedal featuring two independent channels with Marshall amp flavour that can be used individually or stacked. 

Jose Arredondo modded amps for EVH, Steve Vai and others, and an aspect of his work is replicated here by each channel having a toggle switch that brings in diode clipping: germanium diodes for Channel 1 and symmetrical LED diodes for the slightly gainier Channel 2. 

Each channel has its own I/O, allowing them to be used as two separate pedals via a loop switcher or in reversed order (using a patch lead) in a mono chain. In default use, though, Channel 1 feeds into Channel 2.

Both channels sound authentically Marshall-like, with great tones ranging from clean-ish to full-on, all nicely aided by Tone and Presence knobs that complement each other perfectly in tweaking the sound to your taste. Bringing in the clipping diodes adds another element, ushering in more crunchy break-up, and both channels in use together can deliver searing lead tones.  

SexyDrive MkII

Gurus SexyDrive MkII

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

This new iteration of the SexyDrive MkII perhaps should have been labelled as a MkIII because it’s lost its battery power capability and has its footswitch in a different position, among other changes. But its core function remains the same – which is to provide transparent amp-like overdrive.

Logically laid out knobs with clear white-on-black graduation markings all around make it easy to dial in tones and recall favourite settings. The top row of knobs offers Bass, Middle and Treble EQ knobs that never get extreme but provide classy tonal options to match the sound to your amp, dial in a little treble or mid-boost, or tighten up the low-end. 

There’s quite a range of gain available, but what is special here is the Balance knob, which blends dry and driven sounds to mix articulation and pick attack in with the dirt. It’s great for enhanced clean tones with just a bit of grit, as well as textures that can give you the sense of playing through two amps at once. This is one of the most practical drive pedals we’ve seen lately.

Specs

Double-Decker MkII

  • PRICE: £319
  • ORIGIN: Italy
  • TYPE: Drive pedal
  • FEATURES: True bypass
  • CONTROLS: Volume 1, Gain 1, Presence 1, Tone 1, Jose/Norm switch 1, Volume 2, Gain 2, Presence 2, Tone 2, Jose/Norm switch 2, Bypass footswitch 1, footswitch 2
  • CONNECTIONS: Standard input, standard input 2, standard output, standard output 1
  • POWER: Supplied 12V DC adaptor 300mA
  • DIMENSIONS: 127 (w) x 94 (d) x 50mm (h)

SexyDrive MkII

  • PRICE: £179
  • ORIGIN: Italy
  • TYPE: Preamp and drive pedal
  • FEATURES: True bypass
  • CONTROLS: Bass, Middle, Treble, Volume, Balance, Gain, Bypass footswitch
  • CONNECTIONS: Standard input,
    standard output
  • POWER: 9V-12V DC adaptor
    (12V adapter supplied) 40mA
  • DIMENSIONS: 130 (w) x 90 (d) x 50mm (h)
  • CONTACT: Foxgear Distribution (opens in new tab)

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Trevor Curwen has played guitar for several decades – he's also mimed it on the UK's Top of the Pops. Much of his working life, though, has been spent behind the mixing desk, during which time he has built up a solid collection of the guitars, amps and pedals needed to cover just about any studio session. He writes pedal reviews for Guitarist and has contributed to Total Guitar, MusicRadar and Future Music among others.